NUVO Interview: Greg Saunier of Deerhoof 

San Francisco’s Deerhoof have never been a band to adhere to conventions. That goes for everything from their unorthodox songwriting style to drummer Greg Saunier’s practice of playing while sitting on a milk crate.

They’re also likely the world’s only band to merge the late ‘60s Who, Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, and sing-song Japanese pop elements, to mention just a few fleeting reference points for their steadily evolving sound. Their new album, the oddly titled Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars), is the latest in a string of challenging, creative albums by the prolific band, which currently consists of founding member Saunier along with vocalist/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki and guitarists John Dieterich and recent addition Ed Rodriguez.

The band prefers their interviews to run in Q&A form, so per their request, here are some excerpts from a recent interview with Saunier.

NUVO: Who is “Maggie,” and why does she deserve to be offended? 

Greg Saunier: We had a new song that we knew was going to be called “Offend Maggie,” even though we didn’t know the album title yet…. As the songs started to pile up and the recording was coming together, and the artwork was getting sent to us and laid out, “Offend Maggie” seemed to grow in meaning. It might seem slightly confusing at first but after some quality time with the music, lyrics, and artwork, the title starts to come into focus.

NUVO: What is your reaction when you see the word “Beefheartian” in articles about you or reviews of your music?

Saunier: My first reaction…is that I try to resist the temptation to feel complimented. I’m a big fan, but the word gets used so often, in reference to so much music, that it almost doesn’t mean anything anymore…. Anything the listener doesn’t understand gets called “Beefheartian.” But if…it seems like they are making a real point about the relationship between Captain Beefheart and Deerhoof, then I feel great. His use (and the Magic Band’s use) of very simple, childlike melodies that crowd together into something complex has been a big influence on me as a songwriter.

NUVO: Likewise, what do you think about the words “experimental” and “pop.”

Saunier: For us, music is always an experiment: we never know what kind of song we’re going to write next or where the inspiration will come from. We also try to stay open to all types of sounds and accidents when we are recording. As for pop, I always like that one because pop is popular. I like it when we get described in a way that doesn’t scare people away.

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